Rodents: anaesthesia and analgesia

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Veterinary surgeons may be wary of anaesthetizing rodents as they are often less familiar with these species. Rodent anaesthesia can be challenging because, although the various species of rodent tend to be physically similar, they often differ in their response to anaesthetics. Similarly, the drug effects vary with the age, sex and strain of the animal. The relatively short life span of these species can result in a high proportion of aged patients being anaesthetized. For example, a 30-month-old rat presented for removal of a mammary tumour should be considered geriatric. These factors may explain why anaesthetic mortality in rodents has been higher than for other small animals such as dogs and cats. The general considerations are that of risk factor reduction, prevention of hypothermia, respiratory depression and analgesia. The chapter looks at Preanaesthetic preparations; Choice of anaesthetic; Intraoperative care and anaesthetic monitoring; Dealing with anaesthetic emergencies; and Postoperative care.

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6.1 Rat wrapped in bubble wrap to maintain body temperature, with hole cut over surgical site.
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6.2 Rat on scale. Determining an accurate weight to within 0.1–0.5 g allows effective dosing and aids postoperative monitoring.
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6.4 Infiltration of the surgical field with a local anaesthetic such as lidocaine or bupivacaine.
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6.6 Guinea pig in a simple anaesthetic induction chamber. The chamber is filled from the bottom and waste gases are scavenged from the top.
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6.7 Mice in a commercially available ‘double’ induction box which incorporates gas scavenging. (Courtesy of Harvard Apparatus, IMS, Kent)
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6.8 Rodent facemasks of various sizes that incorporate a gas-scavenging system. Anaesthetics are delivered through the inner ring and scavenged from the outer ring.
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6.9 Rat with an intranasal catheter that can be used for oxygen supplementation or inhaled anaesthetic administration.
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6.10 Application of ophthalmic ointment to cover corneas and prevent corneal desiccation during anaesthesia.
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6.11 Pulse oximeter. (Courtesy of Nonin, Kruuse, North Yorkshire)
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6.12 Guinea pig in a warm incubator with hay.
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6.13 Porphyrin staining around the eyes and nose of a rat.
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6.15 Oral administration of meloxicam to a rat.
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